The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is now recommending that everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks “at all times when in an indoor public setting,” citing the risks of flu-like illnesses, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and the Chinese coronavirus.
The department put out the advisory, which points to “several indications of increased incidence of respiratory viruses in New York City,” late last week.
Flu cases, local officials said, have been increasing since October 29, and flu-like illnesses reportedly “made up 12% of all weekly emergency department visits in NYC” for the week ending shortly after Thanksgiving. Officials also cite an uptick in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Additionally, the department referred to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which “advises all people to take proven public health measures to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, which may include wearing a well-fitting mask, practicing good hand hygiene, improving ventilation, staying home when sick, staying up to date with vaccines, increasing space and distance, avoiding crowded spaces, cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated, and getting testing and treatment as appropriate.”
New York City officials are urging individuals — even those who are vaccinated — to wear masks. This contradicts the pitch originally touted by public health officials throughout the pandemic, as they portrayed vaccination as a way to return to a state of pre-pandemic, maskless normalcy.
Further, the masking recommendation also applies to those who have already had the flu or coronavirus, as well as individuals two years old and over, with exceptions.
The guidance reads in part:
Everyone, even if vaccinated and even if they have had COVID-19 or flu before, should wear a mask as follows: a. Wear a mask at all times when in an indoor public setting, including inside stores, offices, lobbies, hallways, elevators, public transportation, schools, child care facilities, and other public shared spaces, and when in a crowded outdoor setting. b. Wear a mask if sick and unable to separate from others, such as when traveling to and from a health care provider, picking up groceries, and when in shared living spaces. c. For people who have tested positive for COVID-19, per CDC and New York State guidance, in addition to isolating at home for at least 5 days, wear a mask at all times whenever in public or around other people for at least 10 days after their symptoms began (or, if they had no symptoms, for 10 days after their test date).
Despite the fact that cloth and drugstore masks are “not really effective in keeping out virus” — a point made by Dr. Anthony Fauci in February 2020 — NYC officials are still recommending those, in addition to “higher-quality masks, such as KN95 and KF94 masks and N95 respirators,” which they said can offer further protection.
In addition to wearing a mask, NYC officials are also urging individuals to stay up-to-date with their vaccinations — both the coronavirus and flu — “even if they have been vaccinated against these viruses previously.”